I am a no-frills angler. I look at the function and ease of use of gear. It has to work, do exactly what I need it to, and it has to endure the more-than-likely abuse I’ll give it as I simply pick up and go. I assume it’s going to endure what I put it through.
Early this summer we were fortunate to pick up a new jon boat with an outboard jet and use it through the season. Thane at Free Spirit Marine in Edmonton wanted to get us into a new boat for the season as he knew we’d spend considerable time on Alberta’s rivers. As many of you know, we spent 20 years guiding fly fishing along the eastern slope rivers and streams. Now that we’re publishing the Alberta Fishing Guide magazine we have a little more time to travel and poke around. Having a jon boat with an outboard jet to poke into the Bow, Red Deer, N Saskatchewan, and Athabasca River systems again this year with this boat was fun.
Our parameters for a boat were simple: the boat had to be small and light enough with clean lines to allow us to cast freely to structure and rising trout as we drift. It had to be light enough so that Amelia – all 130 pounds of her – could row and hold us on rising trout as needed on any river. The motor had to have the juice needed to get us wherever we wanted, effortlessly and reliably given where we were poking around. And it has to be equally usable on a lake as it is on a river.
We’re not folks to use something a couple of times and write a review, so we’ve held off until now to share our thoughts on the experience after a season of use.
Now, for many of you, you may not fly fish and ask “why on earth would I want to row my boat?” That’s a fair question but given how many good walleye we caught on the Red Deer, N Saskatchewan, and mid-Athabasca Rivers, there is a ton of unchecked walleye holding in subtle seams and rock outcroppings that – by having someone feather you down the shorelines – you can work effectively. Sure, some of the more advanced electric motors will do a great job but there’s just something about the precision of a good rower that puts you in the right position at the right angle for the right cast to work the right water you know has to hold fish.
As you’ll note in the following video (ok, so you have to get past the nice, emotional music and the scenic shots of the Bow River valley to get to the main point for the purpose here) watch as Amelia rows the boat and puts us on the water we want to fish. Can she row two x 200+lb anglers and slow us down to effectively fish the structure? You bet. For you walleye anglers, having a light, trimmed down boat with either a good rower or a really good electric motor with GPS, there’s huge opportunity here. Give that a thought as you watch this one:
Step #2: Clean & Clear lines for fishing
The thing you have to love about jon boats with an outboard jet with tiller (ie, no ctr console) is their simplicity. For fly fishing that’s important given how much fly line you have at your feet while fishing, casting, and retrieve. For spin-anglers you get the same benefits as there aren’t many places your lures and gear can get hung up or lost. The jon we used had a 20″ transom as well, which is great to keep waves from coming in the boat as we drift downstream through rapids and riffles as we fished. A seemingly small detail but it kept us from pumping gallons of water as we’ve done in other, low-transom jons in the past. The one addition we did make was to add a carpeted, 1″ marine grade plywood shelf across the back to allow us to stand on over the fuel & battery area. This simply wedged into place and lived in the center of the boat while tailored. It created a massive area to stand and fish. There were few tangles and hang ups in the boat. The bow area is plenty enough room for a second angler to comfortably fish as well. Alternatively, the bow area was used for 4 days camping gear as we explored and fished a couple of more remote areas of these rivers.
Step #3: The motor
The engine had to have the juice needed to get us wherever we wanted, effortlessly and reliably given where we were poking around. We enjoyed the EVINRUDE JET SERIES. Their website says it best: “The lightest jet outboards in their class, they shoot out of the hole and they quickly get on plane. Tight, powerful, quick control. That’s what the Evinrude E-TEC Jet Series is all about.” Honestly, given how easily Amelia could row this boat and how well it performed on the rivers and lakes, that is a true, accurate statement from where we sit. It was enjoyable to use. We spent a lot of time on the water with people this year and there was always 3 of us plus camera gear, fishing gear, a cooler, anchor, etc.
Having an electric tilt was odd at first. Our first jet had a manual tilt and lift system which I was used to in shallow water coming off plane. With this, I was careful to keep the boat in deeper water as I got used to the electric tilt. As the season wore on I came to appreciate not having to lift the motor manually on those cold, cloudy, rainy days that the back 1/2 of 2016 became.
One issue that can plague an outboard jet is cavitations from improper setup and position on the transom. There was none. Even in bigger rapids with 3 of us in the boat we did not cavitate all season. Of course, we didn’t go ripping up the middle of haystacks, rather, worked their edges, but there was never any question.
Running depth. Once on step, the boat with this motor needed very little water to run. Boating experience and necessity are two things that dictate running depth, but we didn’t push the envelope too much. If needed, it will run in 6″ of water on uniform gravel. Keep in mind the aluminum of the boat and that this is a tool to get you fishing and there simply is no need to run it shallow. Throttle down, use the electric tiller to get shallow and either row in or hop out and walk.
Outboard jets are a little louder than propeller driven outboards and you won’t get as much power from them as with propellers, which is why a 60HP outboard tends to be 40HP at the jet head, a 40/30, and 30/20. Keep this in mind as you set up your jets. Our first boat was a 30/20 which, honestly, remains enough to poke around most of Alberta’s rivers with 3 people + gear in the boat. It is very nice to have the kick & pick up of the 60/40, mind you.
As noted above, our first jon-jet was a 30/20 motor. It was far more sensitive to weeds in the foot grate at the water intake of the impeller. This motor simply wasn’t. For as weedy as the Bow River was this year, I think we only had to pick weeds out once.
2-stroke. At first blush, coming from a 4-stroke to a two, and a brand new 2-stroke at that, we were concerned about oil consumption and cost. A gallon of mix oil for this motor is about $48. That gets your attention. And the first month of use we were filling 1/3 the reservoir daily. We’re happy to report that as the engine wore in the oil consumption went way down, almost to the point that we can do 4 days of rowing, fishing, and boating on a reservoir. In 3 1/2 months of use we only used 2/3 of the jug of mix oil. The 60/40 certainly used twice the fuel of our 30/20 4-stroke engine, but ask me which one I’d rather use! When talking about the difference in 1/2 litres of fuel consumption, a little more power is appreciated.
Step #4: Equally usable on a lake as it is on a river
Modified V-Hull jon boats give you a good go at both rivers and lakes. On step on a river the boat planes well beyond the “V”. Mind you, when running rapids and “dancing” water, it’s nice that the “V” works through that water and dampens the impact on passengers and gear inside the boat. The same holds true on lakes when the wind whips up. There were a few times while out chasing pike that the weather changed and the ride home more adventurous. The Crestliner 1648MT jon did its job. On rivers and lakes it was a great ride.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how well the boat trailored. We’ve had rafts and drift boats on various trailers through the years and our previous jon. This boat/motor on the Karavan Trailer was exceptional. Everyone who rode with us commented that they forgot that we were trailoring a boat given how quiet it was and how little power it affected in our old F150.
Overall Impressions – This is a perfect boat for anyone that just wants to get out on the water and not spend $50 to 200K to do so. Depending on the size of motor and jon boat you buy, it’ll set you back $15 to $25K. There are a lot of merits to having a boat you can use on rivers and lakes; that you can man-handle onto a trailer on those bad weather days that you just want to get into a warm truck; that a couple of 40-somethings can easily row; is good on fuel for the power; that allows you to do what you want.
I’ll leave this article by saying that this set up is simply perfect for our needs as we poke around Alberta & western Canada. I’d use it steelheading and on some of those big BC reservoirs and lakes as well. With common sense this set up should do a good job at putting you on a lot of different waters across western Canada.
Dave Jensen, Alberta Fishing Guide
- 1648MT, 2016 Crestliner Jon Boat
- Evinrude 40 Jet Series. E-Tec 2 stroke.
- Secure and stable design for handling faster water flows in larger rivers in Alberta (Bow, RDR, North Sask, Athabasca) yet light enough that you can row and slow the boat down enough to hold an angler casting to the banks
- A high enough transom that there’s no issue of spray from the motor getting in the back of the boat
- Enough space to stand & cast from both the bow platform and the stern bench, allowing ease of fly fishing from it.
- Enough boat space to carry fishing/outdoor equipment for three people, while still giving those three adults space to sit or stand, as desired
60/40 Evinrude E-Tec Jet Series Outboard
- Reliable, electronic operation
- Minimal use of motor oil
- Lots of power for the overall size of the engine.
- Ample and quick pick up to get up on plane in all water types, including deep, heavy waves.
- The impeller handled the impact of a lot of floating weeds in the Bow river this summer.
- Electronic Tiller adjust on the throttle is in a handy place when you want to adjust the depth of the motor in shallower sections of rivers